Truth time: the sweetest moments make boring stories

Truth time: the sweetest moments make boring stories #365strongstories by writing coach marisa goudySpontaneously, I loaded my two year-old into the car and drove north. We would travel over an hour to a small town with a gigantic children's consignment sale. Big sister missed the adventure because was off at school, but we'd make it up to her with an entirely new wardrobe for the next school year. And then, my little one and I headed to a perfect little gluten free bakery and feasted on sandwiches and cookies. Actually, her cookie was free because they thought my kid was so darn cute.

It was a rare Friday when I let work melt away. The multitasking I did was the usual mom stuff, not the crazed mompreneur stuff. I sized up jeans and picked through special occasion shoes while trying to keep a toddler from filching any toys. It was blissful.

What a beautifully boring story! In fact, it's not a story at all.

At best, it's an Instagram caption. You might feel connected enough with me to be happy that I enjoyed this sweet little oasis in the midst of the mess.

At worst, it's a self-congratulatory status update. You dismiss it as just another mompreneur spreading her sunshine about her wonderfully well-balanced life. Who cares if it's true. It just feels like white noise.

To make this into a story, I'd need to steal the sweetness of the moment

This really was a crazy nice day. My eyes welled with tears as I just let my love for my little girl wash over me.

And yet, I was painfully aware of how fleeting this all was and how quickly my six year-old had outgrown these spontaneous excursions with mama. If I let myself blink, I might find that four years have passed and I'm a mother of elementary school kids and I'm all alone on Friday mornings. My chest tightened just to think of it. (And I dismissed all the stress around "I never have enough time to work!" because that is a whole separate issue.)

I don't want to cast a shadow over this experience. I want to remember April 15, 2016 as pure and perfect (especially since we had gotten our taxes done in February!).

But, if I wanted to dig deeper, get real, and find a story in this outing I'd offer up Brene Brown's ideas about "foreboding joy." After all, there's a heck of a lot of juicy material in:

When we spend our lives (knowingly or unknowingly) pushing away vulnerability, we can't hold space open for the uncertainty of risk, and emotional exposure of joy. (Daring Greatly)

That's where the story worth blogging about is hiding - it's in the inner conflict I experienced. Lucky for me, it's my job to teach you about story, not about navigating the contradictions of parenthood. (I'll leave it to you to write into the rich and difficult topic of foreboding joy and the other worries that threaten the sweetest of days - goodness knows this story proves we parents need help figuring all that out!)

In the new content writing class You, Your Stories, and Your Audience we dive deep into how to tell the difference between compelling story and just a bunch of words. Learn more and join me!

Does Every Story Have to Have a Bad Guy? #365StrongStories, 46

Mom, does every story hafta have a bad guy? #365StrongStoires by Marisa Goudy“Mom, does every story hafta have a bad guy?” For some parents, this might be a straightforward question. (Perhaps: “no, not really, but most of the stories we like best do” would suffice.) In our case, the answer lasted the entire fifteen minute ride home from town.

My daughter had just seen one of the Minions movies. It's amazing we held out this long. If you earned a quarter for every Minion you spotted at the grocery store you could cover a decent part of your bill - their googly eyes stare at you from cookies and Band Aids and even the bananas.

Her voice was thin with worry and I could tell my first grader was feeling betrayed. That kind of product placement told her they were about sweets and treats, not about scary noises and tummy-churning plot twists.

So we talked about the stories she knows that don’t have bad guys. Everything from the Itsy Bitsy Spider to Wind in the Willows to nearly every Magic Tree House book.

We got to talk about individuals versus nature and how misunderstandings can make for a good story. There was a discussion of quests and journeys and how we like it best when the main character learns and grows and does things she never thought possible.

But this got me thinking about the stories that I’ve been telling - and whether I have really been writing stories at all.

I love stories with “bad guys” - it’s part of being human, this desire to see good triumph over evil. Ask many storytelling experts and they’ll say that conflict is THE defining factor. But when it comes to exploring conflict and antagonists every day in my own #365StrongStories project, well…

Most of these stories are drawn from my own life. I'm not a secret agent and I’m not a big fan of interpersonal strife, so what’s left?

The stuff of our imperfectly perfect, magically mundane everyday reality, that’s what.

We live powerful stories all the time, and if we’re lucky, almost none of them include criminals or violence or practical jokes with an edge. We’re thrill seekers who pick up novels and watch TV and movies so we can experience a vicarious jolt in our otherwise peaceful, bad guy-free lives.

But do our stories need a bad guy, dear daughter? No.

We may flock to watch megavillains fill the screen and we'll cheer at their demise. But we can still go home to create our own stories about personal realization and the revelation of another’s true character and know we've done work that's just as strong.